CX / UX: why one etailer won a


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Exec summary: the nugget to chew on

Make it easy for potential buyers to buy from you. How? Take the time to understand how people buy. Design your interaction interfaces and the supporting infrastructure to enable just that. And that is not enough. You have to care! Why caring provides the fuel that generates insight and enables actions that make the buyers life easier. It is the source of “wow”. This is particularly important on digital channels. Why? Because the buyer, the customer, cannot easily tell you if the interaction is not working for him.

What is the fundamental principle of good customer experience design?

Work with human nature so that ‘effort’ does not show up in the (target) customer’s mind. Steve Krug wrote a book and I believe the title was ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ – that is exactly it.

What is that we tend to overlook, to get wrong, in customer experience design?

We are not present to non-linearity: that little things can have a huge impact. So we don’t pay attention to the little details, we assume that they don’t matter. We fail to do what Steve Jobs did relentlessly – go for perfection and ensure that each of the little details was taken care of. Isn’t that the essence of design – to take care of the details so that 2+ 2 = 200 in the users world?

Now that you have the nugget you can leave (and get on with life) or you can come along with me on my latest customer experience with two etailers (PC World, Comet).

My experience of buying a television online

You may remember that I bought a television from Amazon: the television was faulty and the returns experience a most interesting one. I thought I had got away with it and I did for several weeks. And then my family were on my back about having a bigger television. So I took another like at requirements, did some research and narrowed my search down to one television.

Who do I buy it from? Using a comparison site I got a list of sellers and prices. First, I ruled out Amazon – as a result of my last experience I made a decision not to buy bulky stuff from Amazon. Second, I narrowed my list down to three vendors: PC World, Comet and Dixons. Why? All three of them are selling it at the same price and all three of them are notable brands – I can’ tell them apart.

I start buying from PC World

Clearly I had a preference, I just did not know it consciously. How do I know I had a preference? Because I went to buy from PC World. Is that something to do with the helpful chap who went beyond the call of duty last time I visited PC World? Or could it be that the PC World logo stands out more than the other two logos? Or is it that I have it that PC World is more modern than the other two? Or is it that PC World was at the top of the list? I suspect one or all of these factors played its part.

The comparison site did its job and I arrived at the at the PC World site I was all ready to buy. This is what I saw and I was pleased with what I saw:

The web page was well laid out, easy to see and understand. Comfortable with what I saw I hit the “Checkout” button; it stands out – someone has been thinking about the design, I say to myself. And I end up here:

My automatic reaction: “For goodness sake, why have you put this here. This should not be here! Let me get on with buying the television.” As I am not an existing customer I hit the “continue” button under the “new customer” section of the web page. And I ended up here:

Why would a sane customer experience / ux designer put this here? It simply occurred as an obstacle – too much effort! And it showed up as “I am not here to populate your CRM system, I’m here to buy a television. And you’re not letting me so I’m going elsewhere!

I arrive at the Comet site

As I have my comparison site web page open, I hit the button for Comet and arrive at this page:

I love this layout:
it occurs as simple, cleaner and focussed on my needs. I have high expectations and hit the home delivery button. The next page asks me for my postcode. I type in 7 digits and the webpage throws open a list of addresses on my street. I pick mine: Freshfields. Easy. Once I have done that, this page turns up:

“Fantastic”, that is my reaction.
The layout appeals to me: I like the way that information is presented. Notice, it is easy for me to choose the delivery option that best suits me. Notice, all the relevant details are well laid out: the product that I am buying; the price; the address it is to be delivered to. And notice that the x-selling of products and services is related to the product that I am buying AND does not get in the way of me buying. For example, it only takes up a small portion of the web page and I do not have to untick any boxes: no effort required!

I make my delivery selection and hit the “continue” button and I arrive here:

Now I am in awe.
I absolutely love the thought that went into the design of the customer experience, the purchasing process. Notice that the designers have taken the information I supplied/confirmed (postcode, house name) and pre-populated the form so that I only need to supply the missing information! What is my thought at this point? “How thoughtful!” I supply the rest of the details and hit the “continue” button.

I arrive at the “Payment” screen – again this is excellently laid out. I select one of the pre-defined, well presented (images) payment options. The designers have been thoughtful again: by ticking the box which says that my delivery address is the same as my credit card address, I avoid the need to enter my address again. I supply the credit card details and viola: up pops the order/payment confirmation screen. This screen is also well laid out and plays back all of the key information: product, price, delivery address, delivery date, order confirmation number. And it shows my email address and tells me that an email confirmation has been sent to this address. I open up my email and sure enough all the relevant details are there. Fantastic!


Comet got my order because they made it EASY for me to buy. Specifically, the designers behind the Comet site:

  • have studied / thought about how people buy – in detail. And then they have designed the buying process to work with human nature. In the real world, I’d turn up at the store, choose the television, tell the salesperson what I wanted to buy and pay. Ask if they would deliver it to my home, when they could deliver it and how much delivery would cost. If I am happy then I would pay. Then I’d end the encounter by supplying the delivery address and asking for paperwork as proof of our agreement.
  • have given considerable thought to how to reduce the effort that customers have to put into buying. This includes: the layout (look, feel, structure) of the web pages; the sequencing of the web pages; the content displayed on each page; and using information that the customer has supplied so that the customer is not asked for and thus does not have to enter the same information twice.

The designers behind the PC World site have clearly not done their homework – they have not looked at the buying process through customer eyes. And so they have put up a big barrier to purchasing right up front. I wonder how much revenue PC World are losing by working against the grain of human nature?

Questions for you

  1. How much effort have you spent observing, studying, questioning the process that your target customers go through to purchase the products/services you are selling?
  2. Have you designed the purchase process such that it works effortlessly for your target customers and they are left with a pleasant experience?
  3. Have you rigorously tested this purchase process to make sure it actually conforms to the design specification (“the customer experience”)?
  4. What are you doing on an ongoing basis to spot the flaws and the opportunities to improve the customer experience?
  5. Are you allowing and encouraging users / prospects / customers to let you know what is and is not working for them?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


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